Monday, July 22, 2013

Have Faith

My mother taught me what having faith really meant. Not just a faith in God but faith that things will be alright.

I still remember cuddling up on my parents' bed with her reading Diary of a Young Girl. I remember getting to the line where Anne says something like, "Despite everything, I still believe people are good at heart."

Actually, what she really says is more beautiful than my paraphrase: "It's a wonder I haven't abandoned all my ideals, they seem so absurd and impractical. Yet I cling to them because I still believe, in spite of everything, that people are truly good at heart."

I just couldn't fathom being so terrified, going through that sort of torment, and still believing that the people who did it to you still had the capacity for compassion. It makes all the liberal arts students with raised noses explicating dystopian novels seem so naive--like they're missing the point. Because what we've experienced will never match what Anne did, and she was still willing to have faith in the world.

Anne Frank may have not had a happy ending, but she knew that what was happening was much bigger than her.

Faith is believing that eventually things will be alright. Faith is letting go. My mother knew how to let go, and now it's my turn.

Sometimes I think my mother did have a happy ending--just not the one we expected.

My new tattoo dedicated to my mother and my Faith. The song was her solo when she was still able to sing in church.

Monday, July 15, 2013

Catching Up

I stood there for a minute, and I almost didn't make myself known to Taylor. It was odd--those feelings you have again that you think are lost to you--he always made me a bit nervous. I'm not sure if it was because all those years ago I "fancied" him, or perhaps it was just because it's been a long time since I have seen him at all. Back then, Taylor was working security at the theatre, but as I waited outside of the bathroom for my best friend's mother, I saw him ripping tickets and directing people to their movies. I felt a lump in my throat. Do I say something? Would it be strange?

I bravely made my way over and said "hey" in the most vague way possible. I've always been awkward, I suppose. Taylor looked at me and smiled and said "hey" back. It sounded like him. He just had a way about him--very quick but very genuine. He could multitask at a quick pace. The next five minutes or so were spent with his rapid conversation about movies I have seen, movies he wants to see and movies that aren't worth it. We made small talk. He asked about my brother; I asked about the church and his family. Everything seemed to be fine. My brother is thinner and taller, as are his. The church is fine--no enthusiasm there but no grave news. It was like time had just been standing still for us. At least, in that moment.

No matter how many steps I take, it only takes one encounter to remind me that in some ways, I'll always be where I was. I'll always be who I was. That's why I was nervous to see Taylor. He remembers who I was, and no amount of self-reflection and acceptance will prepare you for meeting the people who saw you at a different time in your life and only remember that you. There wasn't enough time at that ticket-ripping podium to truly catch up and see how things were.

"But yeah, I mean I don't know that I would go see it--thank you, theatre number eight to your right, please--but it might not be that bad. Theatre number eight to your right, thank you. I mean, I'm here, I might as well take advantage of being able to see it. Theatre 12 to your left, thank you. I wouldn't buy a ticket for it, like you said it's more of a Netflix flick, but if I can see it for free--theatre two to your right, please--because I work here, why not? If I'm out already, might as well go see something, I guess."

I was amazed by how quickly Taylor could respond to the long line of customers and still keep the conversation flowing with me. Even if, at that point, he was the one talking and I was just listening. Just like back then when he would help the youth leaders teach lessons and hang out with us in the middle of the week for an evening of whatever entertainment. Taylor was always focused and had his head on straight--at least, that's the him that I remember. Even if Taylor seemed at a loss for words--stumbling or stuttering at times--he always knew what he wanted to say. I admired that in so many ways.

My eyes kept running down to his hands as he swiftly ripped tickets. There was a long line ahead of him, so I tried not to detract his attention from his customers too much. Then I saw his tattoo--I had almost forgotten about it. I never knew if he had more than one, but this one was simple and I liked that. I never did know what characters they were, but they looked closely related to Chinese characters. They were small--no bigger than three-fourths of a dime's size--and wrapped around his wrist in a single line. Years of having it, and years of me examining it, have faded it so, but it's still clear. The age of it only adds to its uniqueness. Taylor never would tell anyone what it meant. "It's something personal," I remember him saying years ago. "I will tell you this, though--" we all looked at him intently, nosy kids that we were (and he only being a couple of years older than us). "It's Johnny Cash lyrics." My mind wandered wildly. If Taylor wouldn't tell us, that means they must be darker lyrics. Or perhaps positive, somehow, but stem from a darker time he's not ready to talk about.

I'd be lying if I said any part of me wanted to respect his privacy--I understood I had to, though. Curiosity almost always got the better of me. I wonder now if he has ever told his girlfriend the full story of that tattoo and what the characters stand for. I remember once wanting to be the one who Taylor told that to. Now it just seems silly--like a girlish crush. Perhaps because my mind is settled and not wandering as much as it did in those days. I have Trey and I have my own life.

In fact, I'm just as focused, too, on my own things. Like he was--like he is. And I'm slowly building up the courage to speak up, because I could be like him and teach somebody something one day. Hopefully something useful and inspiring.

My eyes moved away from his wrist long enough to take a quick glance at my own wrist. My permanent markings mean something to me just as uncomfortably deep. I just wasn't clever enough to encrypt mine.

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

The Pure Life

***Sometimes I get informal with my posts.***

My Pura Vida bracelets came in the mail today, and I couldn't be happier. I heard about them through a friend who is now selling for them, but I did my own research on them a week ago and couldn't wait until going back to campus in a couple of months to buy from her. (Sorry, Dowling! I'll totally buy some more from you when classes start, dear.)

If you want to know the story behind Pura Vida, click here.

If you'd like 15%-off your purchase, go here.

"Pura vida" in Spanish means "pure life." 

It's a lifestyle I've been moving towards for myself since 2013 began in order to keep moving forward. I'm living one day at a time and not letting anything hold me back. And I'm living for inner peace and God's will.

Pura Vida Bracelets gives back to the Costa Rican artisans who create(d) them, providing them with full-time jobs to take care of their families. The company also gives their profits to One Percent for the Planet and the Surfrider Foundation, cleaning up oceans. There are several charmed, braided and beaded bracelets that are cute and fashionable, but if I was going to give back to the business and its stance, I wanted the first bracelets to stand for something more personal.

Pura Vida Bracelets has a charity line whose profits go towards awareness and research of the cause of your choice. The causes I chose mean something near and dear to me:

  1. The multicolored bracelet: Stop Bullying. It's a movement I've cared for and it really gained momentum with social media--it is social media, honestly. You see people hashtag it all the time. I've spoken a little about my problems with bullies, but it's really what I've seen around me that's affected me the most, more than what's been directed at me. I just don't see what is so great or commendable about bringing others down, and ever since last year, my care for the movement has really taken off. 
  2. The red one: Natural High. Another movement I care for. Granted, Natural High was something I heard about in college, but it's always been something I stood for. I took care of myself to lose the extra weight I had the healthy way, and I work every day to continue to take care of myself. Natural High is also about not submitting to drugs or alcohol of any kind. Get your boost the healthy and active way. I do occasionally have a drink, but no more than a drink. I've always hated the abuse of substances, especially drugs. Hipsters call it "straight edge," but I just call it taking care of myself. I don't like to mask my problems with substances, either. Which, unfortunately, a lot of people my age do. Just because a drink makes you feel better after a stressful day doesn't mean your stress isn't there when you sober up. ("Being a badass is handling your shit." - Demi Lovato)
  3. The grey one: Brain Cancer Research. My mother died from a tumor on her brain stem, and I do genuinely care to know more about brain cancer and the research involved in not only finding a cure but how you can help others who are going through it. 
The black bracelet on my wrist is just a generic, beaded bracelet I bought while in the mountains in a shop there. But it means a lot because I'm reminded of that trip when I see it. It reminds me of the peace I found there. 

Pura Vida Bracelets does a lot, and their cute bracelets still keep those artisans in business and give towards the two causes the owners care about. So even if you don't buy from their charity line, you're doing a good thing. 

I actually would like to see Costa Rica one day.

Monday, July 8, 2013

Dear Me, at Eighteen:

*****I think I've done one once before, but oh well.*****

You're 18-years-old, and you should feel like you have your whole life ahead of you, but I know what's really going on inside that head of yours. All I can say is you do eventually feel whole one day.

It's easy enough to say some of the things you'll say, but it's another to actually feel it. I get it. I get it all too well. All those quotes online that talk about inner beauty and loving each other will seem so real, but you'll never feel them--at least not yet. No matter how convincing you are, we both know the truth. Because it's going to take you until now to finally understand what I'm about to say to you: Outer beauty will never be a good measurement of who you are as a person or the value of life you're living. Dwelling on such will only make you miss out on more life than you could ever know. You're about to start your freshman year of college, and your senior year of high school hasn't gone as swimmingly as you would have hoped. Don't worry, kid. Senior year isn't all it's cracked up to be. It's all drama and big life decisions and gripping the edge of your seat until graduation day; it's stressful. But you have friends and family beside you. You have so many people who love you.

I don't regret much, but I do wonder why you never turned to any of them when deep down you were hurting. I would say stop clinging onto your pride, but I know it won't do any good. Instead, I'll just make a mental note for now. The you of now is living in the moment more, reminding herself how blessed she is and allowing herself to be more vulnerable than she's ever been. Yes, you are happy, I promise. This time I really mean it.

You have anxiety, and you'll find that out later. It's not that bad, but it means you can finally learn to control it. You'll talk to a doctor about it and discover that things are going to be fine as long as you watch yourself in times of high stress. It's all starting to make sense, though, isn't it? All those times you were freaking out were panic attacks and it's okay. Push through them. They're terrifying, but you can do it. You're clearly strong enough to do at least that much. I'm here, aren't I?

Take a breath. Count to ten. Allow yourself to feel something.

I know what you're thinking when you look in the mirror--you see someone who is lost and someone who is insecure and scared of her own shadow. You get over that eventually. It doesn't happen all at once, but it happens. Some of it happens with time--you just grow up. Some of it happens because you finally decide to take action. You say it a lot: "I want to..." But then you finally start doing it a year or so later. (I know, we're such bad procrastinators, aren't we?) You start taking care of yourself and reevaluating what it means to be human. We live on this earth as more than just long legs and perfect tans. You stop caring that your fair skin burns. You stop caring that you don't have straight brown hair like your best friends or that you're heavier. You lose the weight for you--the best reason of all. You start feeling more comfortable in your own skin, and you start to see yourself as beautiful. And those curves, girl... Work 'em! Your body wasn't meant to be thin like the models you see on television, and that's more than okay with you now! And as you're wrapping your head around that, you're looking back and thinking a lot. You're reconsidering your actions and working to be a better you for yourself and those you impact. You'll make it a new goal to reach out to others, spread happiness and love and make an impact in this world.

You make mistakes along the way. Lots of them. Mostly with your friends. You've already made some that I can still remember. You have a lot of feelings and insecurities hiding beneath the surface. You're short-tempered at times and your personality is a strong, authoritative one. For some, it could rub them the wrong way. And it does occasionally. But you will soon find that your friends are very forgiving people. When people act out that way, it's because there's something else bothering them. You learn that, too. Those friends I mentioned before? They love you for you--they always have--and they will be there for you when you have to ask for forgiveness for the way you acted or the things you said. Even if it's years down the road.

Eventually you'll stop saying "I'm not bitter" in an attempt to fool yourself. One day you'll wake up and you'll be better. You'll forgive. You'll let go. One day, I swear, you'll be at peace.

I don't want to scare you, but it will take counseling. You're not as strong as you think you are. The great thing about being human, though, is that we're not expected to be superhuman. We can be weak, as long as we are willing to take the necessary steps to get back up on our feet. The series of events that will lead you to counseling won't be fun, but those rough times teach you some very important lessons. When you're on the other side of that metaphorical mountain, you'll be thankful for the amount of life you've lived because of it. Those moments will make you more aware and make self-investigation the most important thing you'll ever do for yourself.

Remember those times you cried because you were lonely? That will change, too. You'll meet someone--an amazing someone. He'll be everything you've ever wanted to come save you. He'll meet you in the middle of this war with yourself. You'll seem fine when he comes in the picture, but then things will get heavy. Don't worry, though--he sticks around. A lot of it will be things that will be out of your control. It will drive you mad. You'll be made to realize how much of a control freak you actually are when you can't control anything around you. You'll have really bad days when those inner demons from middle school and high school will come back, but he'll be there. He'll convince you that you are stronger than you were, and you're getting stronger. One day when he's states away and you're looking at your left hand wondering how you got here and why he isn't physically next to you, you'll remember all those days that he stood by you and why he's more than worth it. And you'll smile.

Melody is still your best friend. How many years has it been now--12? She'll remain just as important to you now as she was then. Even more so, maybe.

All those people, all those hard times, all those struggles with inner demons will be rough. You'll still look at yourself some days and not like what you see, and you'll still look at how you deal with things and want to beat yourself up over it. But you have to remember you're a work-in-progress. The fact that you care so much only means you're a good person.

I know at 18-years-old you have the whole world and then it seems like nothing at the same time, but just remember what you do have. Remember to be thankful. (I think you remember to be thankful a few times.)

You're a warrior.

Monday, July 1, 2013

My Vacation in Words

My Vacation in Pictures


The rain is pouring outside much as it had that day. I remember the pressure of the drops on my head and how it felt when I looked up and let it hit my face. The beautiful creature beneath me was frazzled by a pesky fly seconds before the rain began but was now relieved to find the weather had graced him, too. We were on top of a mountain by horseback. We had managed to make it two-thirds around the mountain--all the way up and halfway down--before the rain began. The mountain tops shimmered in the sunlight, but in the rain there was something more peaceful about watching the humid air cast fog across each peak. It's as if my eyes were swimming in a sea of poppies--tranquility everywhere I looked, out on the blue curves and points of the rocks far away. When it was still sunny outside, the trees opened up and I could see the mountains that stretched states away. Forever. Forever is how far away I felt. No problems. No pain. No fear.

After our horses managed to gallop to the top of a steep incline, the woods opened up yet again to a field that stretched to more woods far from us, only broken up by our trail that our horses, in single-file, made their way down. For them, it was a memorized journey. For me, it was all new and treasured. That's when the rain came. It started sprinkling and the group laughed in unison--we thought we had missed the forecast's predictions just this once. Then the rain picked up in pressure, falling so fast we were covered from head-to-toe. I looked out on the misty mountains and couldn't believe that I was able to experience the sight for myself. In a world of special effects, it's hard to tell what's real anymore. But those misty mountains, that horse and that rain were my reality. There were no shallow feelings or superficiality there. It was raw exposure.

We weren't riding up the mountain in our finest clothes and finest faces. We were stripped down and our eyes were wide open. And the world seemed even more beautiful than it did before.

We were scared it would rain by the third day. The forecast read heavy rain all day, but we all agreed the weather was rarely predictable. The rain would have kept us away, but when it came during our journey, it was a gift. It gave the experience new perspective; I needed that perspective.

I spent much of the trip with my younger brother, exploring the mountain our cabin sat upon with a camera nearby to find that different perspective. We found new views, new angles and new memories. Together we were in the sun's warmth, glowing--even tired we were blissfully removed from what we knew too well. The cabin sat by the river and my father spent most of his time fishing for trout, only to catch small mouth bass. But even he couldn't remove the smile from his face. The way the river folded over the rocks as rapids, filled the air with a thick sound. We had a hard time talking over it, but maybe that was the point. Perhaps we were meant to just sit, think and enjoy the moment.

I still peak through the trees hoping I'll see the mountains there, but we are not at the cabin anymore. The river isn't crashing against rocks right by my head as I sleep. But the view from here isn't any less beautiful. It is home. I love sitting by this window. The rain has stopped, and the light is glimmering off of the droplets that remain. It's the nutrients that make our gardens grow. It reminds me of the four days we packed up what we needed and hid away in the beautiful mountains of Ellijay.